Suitors for free agent Fielder quiet for now

Suitors for free agent Fielder quiet for now

Suitors for free agent Fielder quiet for now
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and principal owner Mark Attanasio met late Tuesday afternoon with the agent for Prince Fielder, the team's biggest free agent since CC Sabathia slipped away to the Yankees three years ago.

Asked beforehand what might transpire in his sitdown with Scott Boras, Melvin joked, "Probably not a whole lot, but at least while we're together, we might as well talk or look at each other."

In other words, this was not a meeting to exchange numbers. Realistically, such a meeting may never happen because Fielder's contractual requirements will almost certainly price him out of Milwaukee and send him elsewhere.

Where will he land? That remains anyone's guess, because none of Fielder's potential suitors are willing to publicly declare their intentions.

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MLB.com takes a glance at each position entering the Hot Stove season.

SP: Plenty of mid-tier arms
RP: Closers flood market
1B: Pujols, Prince elite
2B: Thin but reliable
3B: Aramis the lone big bat
SS: Attention on Reyes
OF: Bargains available
DH: Ortiz the top target
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"I couldn't even guess where he'll end up," said Reds general manager Walt Jocketty, who is set at first base with 2010 National League MVP Joey Votto. "I think it will go late into the winter."

Or, maybe it won't.

"Look at [Torii] Hunter with the Angels a couple of years ago -- he signed early because they wanted him, and they got him," said Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans, another club that says it's staying out of the Fielder sweepstakes. Evans said San Francisco intends to improve its offense with a combination of players and not just one superstar.

Somebody will want Fielder, though no club seems eager to give Boras an opportunity to shop around a first offer. The Brewers had the first opportunity on Tuesday. As expected, Boras left an hourlong meeting at Milwaukee's Pfister Hotel without seeing any numbers.

"I assume that they want to test the market, being a big-name free agent," Melvin said. "We'll let them test the market and go from there. At some point, we have to make some decisions and move on. We've got plan A, B, C, D."

Melvin's "gut feeling" is to give Milwaukee's first-base job to 26-year-old Mat Gamel, who has terrific Triple-A numbers, but has so far struggled in limited duty at the next level.

Fielder and Boras, meanwhile, will wait for the first offer. It might come from the Marlins, Orioles, Nationals, Rangers or Cubs -- all teams with whom Fielder potentially could be a fit. Executives from none of those clubs have been willing to say publicly that they are interested.

Theoretically, Fielder could fit with the Cardinals if the other big free-agent first baseman -- Albert Pujols -- signs elsewhere. GM John Mozeliak said he doesn't see it happening.

"I wouldn't envision that, given the makeup of our club, with [Matt] Holliday, [Lance] Berkman and [Allen] Craig," Mozeliak said. "It would allow us to give someone younger more at-bats there. Our hope is to find a way to keep Albert."

The GM who came closest to expressing interest in Fielder on Tuesday came from the most active team of all: the Marlins, who have already reportedly made offers to Pujols, shortstop Jose Reyes, starter Mark Burhrle and reliever Ryan Madson.

Miami president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest was asked whether, if Pujols goes elsewhere, he would show interest in Fielder.

"I think we're going to try to show interest in a lot of things," Beinfest said. "I don't know about anybody specifically, but with the payroll increasing, I think it's our job to open up all of the doors that we can and that make sense, and try to do everything we can to make the team better. ... I'm not going to answer your question directly, but we're looking for good players."

Does that fact that Fielder lives in Orlando give the Marlins an advantage?

"I think money gives you an advantage in this game a lot of times," Beinfest said. "We'll see. I know this thing came out of left field for a lot of people, that we've reportedly been so aggressive early. We want to be aggressive. We want to improve the team."

So does new Orioles GM Dan Duquette, who tried to, in his words, "throw water" on links between Baltimore and Fielder during the news conference announcing his hiring. That does not necessarily rule out the O's as a suitor.

"I didn't say yes, I didn't say no," Duquette said. "I did say I was more comfortable signing players out of markets other than the premium free agents."

And what about the Cubs? Fielder has historically enjoyed success at Wrigley Field and against National League Central rivals, and the Cubs have a new management team of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Two of their managerial candidates -- Dale Sveum and Mike Maddux -- are former Brewers coaches.

Hoyer would not comment specifically on players or whether the Cubs could handle projected big salaries that Fielder and Pujols will demand.

Ditto for Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, who was Milwaukee's scouting director when the Brewers drafted Fielder in the first round in 2002.

"Just look at what he's done, and that speaks volumes about what he is," Zduriencik said. "The games he's played and his production, it's been pretty positive. On a personal note, I'm happy with what's happened for him in Milwaukee over the years."

Where will Fielder spend his next years? That remains to be seen.

"I'll bet you that Boras could tell you right now who is going to sign him and for how much," Evans said. "It just takes time to develop."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.